May 28, 2001
Evergreen won't renew Fallat's contract
by Jeanette Knutson
Evergreen Hospital Medical Center's Board of Commissioners will not renew Chief Executive Officer Andrew Fallat's contract when it expires at the end of December. Fallat, who has been CEO of this public hospital since 1981, will remain in his post for the term of his contract to assist in the search for his replacement.
In January, the hospital's Medical Staff Council (MSC) ‹ comprised of the hospital chief of staff and 12 other appointed doctors to provide a unified voice in representing the nearly 700 doctors who practice at Evergreen, and to channel that voice to the board ‹ expressed concern about Fallat's ability to lead Evergreen into the future. Their concern took the form of a no-confidence vote.
Doctors' dissatisfaction at the time revolved around departure of key personnel, criticisms of Fallat's management style, failure to develop clinical projects and a lack of a dynamic partnership that staff feared could put the future of the hospital at risk.
But Board President Jeanette Greenfield said the doctors' opposition to Fallat was not a factor in her decision of not to extend Fallat's contract. As a reason for the board's decision she cited a "... need for advancing in a new strategic direction that includes the deepening of our clinical capabilities and the broadening of our relationships ..."
Said Dr. David Asmussen, an obstetrician-gynecologist, former chief of staff and chairman of the MSC when the no-confidence vote was taken, "Most of us have a hard time deciding when to quit, especially when we have a history of being successful. With time, Fallat surrounded himself with loyal executives to work under him. Sometimes that loyalty may have taken precedence over ability, over time.
"We're having losses of over $1 million a year in the following areas," Asmussen continued, "intensive care, hospice, home health, and Evergreen Medical Group (primary care). As a priority, we need to turn around at least some of those losses."
Dr. Paul Buehrens, medical director at Lakeshore Clinic in Kirkland and member of the MSC, suspects Evergreen's reported $7.8 million operating loss for last year may have played a part in the board's decision not to ask Fallat back.
"This is not the first year," said Buehrens of the most recent operating loss; "the trend line for the last 3, 4 years has not been good."
Dr. Jim Brown of Evergreen Medical Group, working at Redmond Urgent Care, current Chief of Staff-Elect at Evergreen and two-year member of the MSC, said, "Now we have to build on what [Fallat's] already created. We have great programs, great recognition in the community for the 'Evergreen way of providing care,' which is a more hands-on, more personal [way of doing things]. The medical staff, the board and the administration need to close ranks and work diligently to realize the great potential that exists for Evergreen Hospital. I believe we can do that," said Brown.
Buehrens likens Fallat's exit to the clearing of a log jam.
"It opens up opportunities to get rid of baggage, past failures, past grudges," he said. "It represents a chance to start over with a new person.
"The place has grown 10-fold since Fallat has had the job. But he's had a long tenure; two decades is a long time for a CEO in the corporate world. He's had a good run.
"This hospital has got a tremendous high-quality staff and I am optimistic we can go forward with healthier relationships all around," Buehrens said.
"In many ways," said Asmussen, "Andy Fallat is Evergreen Hospital, in terms of all he's done.
Board President Greenfield said, "Andy has taken a small, community-based hospital and built it into a nationally recognized hospital medical center. ... One of our top priorities is to improve our financial performance and move forward on our efforts to provide technologically advanced services to district residents."